Chignik Lagoon hydro power plant knocked offline by heavy rains, erosion

Nov 7, 2016

After two weeks of clean-up, the Packer's Creek hydro-electric power plant is running again. Heavy rains and erosion in mid-October disrupted operations at Chignik Lagoon's year-old alternative energy source.

The second day of flooding at Packers Creek
Credit Chignik Lagoon Village Council

Mid-October storms hit Chignik Lagoon hard. The erosion that the rains caused along the banks of Packer’s Creek shut down their new hydro-electric power plant. The village support and funding  to improve the creek's water flow to prevent erosion during future storms. But as they wait on assistance, a small group from the village has been straightening out the creek  and clearing away debris. Jeremy Billadeau is one of the plant’s operators, and he has been helping with the clean up the last two weeks.

"It's for the village," he says, "to make sure we don't lose our power."

The small run-of-the-river plant supplies upwards of 90 percent of the power for the community of 70 people. Don Bumpus is fisherman who has lived in Chignik Lagoon for 40 years. He says the erosion was dramatic.

"Looked like a bomb at first. There was a lot of vegetation. Alders was washed down, plugging up the creek, causing more erosion problems at the village," says Bumpus.

The hydro power plant is now back up and running, and the clean-up crew took steps to curb future erosion by straightening some of the bends in the creek.

"I don't know if it will stop it from happening again," Bumpus explains, "but it will help immensely. All the alders are cleaned out of the creek, and the creek is straightened up."

Chignik Lagoon’s plant has been operating since the spring of 2015. In that time, it has shut down at least once for rain and once in the summer for lack of water. Despite the setback in the past few weeks, the village is still enthusiastic about the plant’s simplicity and ability to provide for most of their power needs.

Contact the author: avery@kdlg.org